Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Baca's Mailbag: Working Your Roster, part 1

A comment in the last post noted that last year Heat, using a tightly controlled rotation was successful while this season Dynasty, using something closer to two separate lines, has also been successful and was curious as to what I thought--and if I had any preferences when it came to how to work your roster in competition.

As it happens I do. But first I want to be clear that what follows applies to the pro game only. This is because the other variants of Race To demand a different set of priorities due to the duration of the matches. Only 5 or 4 points respectively. So right away we see one primary consideration; limitation by format. (And one of the reasons I was consistently opposed over the years to the changes away from Xball up to and including the move from Race To 9 to 7. And why I think there may be some merit in the idea of dropping the 'race to' element from the pro game and just play the clock.) Either more time or fewer restrictions allow for greater roster flexibility.
Let's return though for a moment to the original hypothesis about Heat and Dynasty. It's important to have an accurate view of our working premise so we don't build error on top of error. While Heat did not use only 5 players last year, they did routinely use a group of 5 between 72% - 61% of the time. Say approx. 2 out of every 3 points played and that pattern refined itself over the course of that season. In fact, it carried over to the first two events of 2013 as well with the exception of the reps (spins?) (Really, when did that expression enter the paintball lexicon and goofy SoCal activity was it ripped off from?) Dizon got filling in for injured players. Given the data I think it's fair to say the Heat have chosen to focus on a tight roster and a minimal rotation of players--at least up to Chicago where the addition of Jacob Edwards and injury to Dizon clearly had an impact.
Since all the same data was available for all the pro teams in 2012 I also looked them all over to compare general roster patterns with Heat's example and found a few interesting factoids. Two teams ran tighter rosters than Heat; Upton 187 & CEP. Neither managed anything like similar results and both were 10- [minus] teams. (One other thing I looked for was roster consistency and a team rated 10- did not have the same 10 players rostered for a minimum of 75% of the team's points played over the season. All that means is there was some player turnover on some teams during the season. But that's the sort of scenario that would likely impact roster usage and team tendencies.) The next three teams last season most likely to run a tight roster were Thunder, X-Factor and Vicious though in the case of the later two teams it was a rotation of 4 players, not 5 with Thunder and X-Factor being 10- teams. Followed by Damage, Ironmen & Infamous. Now before you go and assume too much about these later teams on the list the numbers suggest that all the pro teams last year except two played their first five players within a similar percentage range. The point of divergence is how the remaining reps are apportioned amongst the remaining players. If one or two additional players got the lion's share of the leftover reps the roster was tighter and if the leftover reps were spread more evenly among the remaining players on a roster the looser. In any case there were more similarities than I expected across the board.
Of the two teams unmentioned so far, Dynasty and Russian Legion, Dynasty falls closer to the main group of teams while the Legion ran closest to using two lines. Player preference on Dynasty began at a lower baseline and filled in a much narrower range but there was still a clear demarcation of playing percentages given that Dynasty was a 10- team. Legion played their top line around 57% of the top and their other line around 43% though to make that distinction is probably not completely accurate as players were still moved around some.
The available data on Dynasty for 2013 shows not a strict two line operation but a purposeful use of the whole roster with Ryan, Alex and Dalton getting the most reps and everyone else fitted in perhaps by play call or effectiveness at the time. It is also consistent with what the team was doing last season if perhaps more controlled this year. So while there are no true two line teams competing in Champions Dynasty comes closest right now.
More next time in what has turned into at least a two-parter.


Anonymous said...

Also consider that Heat plays one line almost exclusively on Sunday (with perhaps 1 player substitution as necessary based on turn around times) and plays a more balanced one and a half to two line approach in the prelims.

Case in point, Slowiak gets tons of playing time in the prelims and none in the finals.

It would same Jason wants to keep analysis of his game plans unpredictable until Sunday and is using is deep bench and their strange willingness to consistently sit on Sundays to make it happen.

Baca Loco said...

With respect to last year Nick's PT was reduced as the season went along--and was reduced even further in the first two events this season. Chicago was an aberration compared to the last 7 PSP events.
Player choice has little bearing on Jason's game plans.

Grant H said...

Isn't it simply the coaches preference and their confidence in individual player/team ability more of a factor in deciding whether a team runs with 1 main line or 2 separate lines?

Baca Loco said...

At the end of the day, sure, but there's a lot of other considerations involved.

Nick Brockdorff said...

The consideration will always be a combination of who suits the game plan best (which depends on score, opponent and layout), and who is playing to the best of their ability on the day.

Everyone has strong suits and weak points, so if your focus is playing inside out and getting a couple of G's OTB, you put in your best laners, and if it is to go long and play outside in, you put in your speed monkeys or the fastest 2s that can run and gun well.

(this is ofcourse very simplified - obviously plans get more complex, when players are multifaceted or when you play strong and weak sides).

Having said all that, there is also the consideration of giving your less solid players spins, when you are up by a good margin - especially if they are usually starters and need to find their game - but that is not relevant to this particular debate.

Baca Loco said...

I would like to buy that Nick and as an ideal one hopes it works approximately like that but--try this scenario on for size.
It's the win and play on Sunday prelim match. Lose, you're done. For whatever reason it;s always a close match. A couple of your mainstays haven't been great so far and a couple of others are looking good. Do you go with the hot hands first or hold them in reserve if your normal big play guys aren't up for it--or vice versa--and why? In one case you've got guys who have been there and done that for you before versus the guys who may be better right now. You have to pull the trigger but you've also got to be prepared to justify a lose if it comes.

Anonymous said...

Case in point, like comment 1 said Slobadonznyiak plays amazing ball in Chicago (including a spectacular 3 on 1 vs. Damage) and then sits in the finals.

Nick Brockdorff said...

I'd go with the guys that look good "now".

I know it goes against popular belief, but I believe in hot streaks and I believe the best way to develop players, is to give them game time in high pressure matches.

At the same time, it shows my starters they cannot become complacent, if they want to remain starters.

And by the way, in your scenario, the opponents always give us close matches, so them having our number, makes it an easier choice for me to sit the normal starters who are underperforming.